Members of Delaware County's Port Authority on Jan. 19 focused on continuing the board's work in the wake of critical e-mails that were leaked to the press.

Members of Delaware County's Port Authority on Jan. 19 focused on continuing the board's work in the wake of critical e-mails that were leaked to the press.

Port authorities in Ohio assist counties and other municipalities with financing for development projects and/or managing assets such as transportation facilities or other community facilities, according to a county-prepared overview.

The state also gives them the power to structure large-scale projects through public and private financing.

In late December, Gus Comstock, the county's economic development director, criticized the authority in an e-mail to authority board members, citing the board's inability "to fulfill its mission, as distractions and issues of varying importance have gotten in the way."

Among the issues was a lack of an application form for those wanting to do business with the authority, and no fee schedule.

That e-mail was forwarded to some media outlets and news articles appeared that cast the authority in an unfavorable light, said Greg Roy, the authority's secretary-treasurer, at their Jan. 19 meeting.

In a separate e-mail to the commissioners, Comstock asked them to intervene unless the authority began to work together to move forward.

The Jan. 19 meeting was the first time the authority met since Comstock's e-mails.

The board agreed to use an application now used by Toledo's Port Authority and approved a fee schedule.

The board also directed its attorney, Ken Molnar, to bring the bylaws up-to-date.

Board member Charlotte Joseph asked that the release of Comstock's e-mail to the media be placed on the agenda for discussion.

While she acknowledged that the work of the board is public, the release of an e-mail to the media before the board had a chance to discuss it "was embarrassing for the port."

"I'm tired of wallowing around in whatever soup is here. ... It's time to drop anchor on past issues and move forward," she said.

Port authority chairman Dennis Bell said he didn't know who released the e-mail but it was time for the members "to work as a group."

Commission president Tommy Thompson was at the Jan. 19 meeting and said he doesn't mind talking to the media but doesn't like to be "blindsided" by their questions, which happened in this case.

"If you have issues with one another, let's talk about it. ... I see it making things better for Delaware County," he said.

"The Port Authority is here to finance projects in this county and that is what we should be doing," Bell said.

Comstock said the members "need to be aware of the damage" negative news articles bring. The county lost a project because of the negative publicity.

"Our clients expect the highest level of professionalism," he said.

Roy questioned Comstock on the loss of a project.

Comstock said he was notified of the loss by an attorney who has appeared before the authority before.

"We have produced $216-million in projects and I am proud to sit here as a member of the port," Roy said, saying he wished the reporters who ran the articles were at the Jan. 19 meeting.

"We've been through struggles," including almost a year without an economic development director to guide projects their way, he said. "Despite what the news media says we do a lot of work."

"I really think the board is doing what it needs to do at this point ... We need to move forward," Bell said.

Thompson said he saw the board taking "positive steps" at the meeting.

"Sometimes you have to hit bumps in the road to get things moving," he said. "Delaware County is coming back (from the economic downturn) and we need to be ready as projects come in."

Delaware County's Port Authority was formed in 2006.

Since then it has handled five projects totaling $216-million, including Citigroup's banking data center in Liberty Township.

The five members of the authority are appointed by the commissioners and are accountable to them.